Stranger things have happened. And this is where inspiration (and extreme idealistic hope) kicks in. Here are the NL standings on the morning of September 9, 1964 -- exactly 46 years ago:
The Cardinals began the stretch run playing 18 -- EIGHTEEN! -- straight road games. They played .500 ball in the first 10 over that span, while their rivals essentially maintained the status quo. And after losing 2 of 3 to the Reds, they'd fallen a half-game further back of Philly. Here's where things stood at the close of play on 9/20/64:
We'll let Wikipedia's paraphrasing of David Halberstam's October 1964 tell the rest:
On September 20, Philadelphia was 90-60 and led the National League by 6.5 games with only twelve games to go. A pennant seemed assured. The Phillies even started taking applications for World Series tickets. Then came the infamous "Phillie Phold". The Phold started on September 21, when Philadelphia lost 1-0 to Cincinnati with the only run scoring on a steal of home. The Phils were swept in three games by Cincinnati, who crept to within 3Ĺ games of first place. Then they were swept in four games by Milwaukee. On the 25th the Braves beat Philly in 12 innings. On the 26th they beat Philly by scoring three in the top of the ninth. On the 27th Milwaukee beat the Phils 14-8, extending their losing streak to seven games and dropping them out of first place for the first time in two months. Philadelphia was one game behind Cincinnati, while the Cardinals, who'd gone 6-1 during Philadelphia's streak, were in third place, 1.5 games back. The Phillies were feeling the pressure and making mistakes on the bases; in one fifteen-game stretch, 10 Phillies were thrown out trying to take an extra base.
St. Louis and Philadelphia met for a crucial three-game series starting in St. Louis on Sept. 28. The Cardinals won the first game 5-1, vaulting past Philly into second place, one game behind the idle Reds, with the Phils 1.5 games back. On the 29th the Cards beat the Phils 4-2 behind a strong start from Sadecki, and Cincinnati lost to visiting Pittsburgh. The Cardinals were in first place for the first time all year, tied with the Reds, with Philly 1.5 games back. On the 30th the Cardinals beat the Phillies again, 8-5, with Curt Simmons beating Bunning. Cincinnati lost to Pittsburgh at home again, and the Cardinals had sole possession of first place. Philadelphia had lost ten in a row and the Cardinals had won eight in a row.
The Cardinals lost 1-0 on October 2 at home to the terrible Mets while the Phillies beat the host Reds to finally snap their losing streak. On the 3rd the Cardinals lost again to the Mets while the Phillies and Reds remained idle. St. Louis and Cincinnati were tied for first place with 92-69 records, while Philadelphia was one game behind at 91-70. On the last day of the season, October 4, the Phillies beat the Reds at Cincinnati again, but the Cardinals beat the visiting Mets 11-5 to win the pennant by one game, with a 93-69 record. The "Phold" is remembered as one of the worst late-season collapses in baseball history. The Cardinals, having won their first pennant since 1946, would go on to face the mighty Yankees in the World Series.
So let's look at the present and future. Here are the remaining schedules (3-game sets except as noted):
TBR (12 H, 11 A) ---- @TOR, NYY, LAA, @NYY (4), SEA, BAL, @KCR (4)
BOS (9 H, 13 A) ---- @OAK, @SEA, TOR, BAL, @NYY, @CWS (4), NYY
For each, the balance of the season pretty much breaks down to two polar opposite stretches in terms of difficulty. The Sox have 12 games vs teams playing .446 ball, followed by 10 games against .595 competition. Tampa Bay has 13 games vs .565 teams and closes out with 10 against dregs playing .395 ball. Boston gets an extra off day (on 9/23).
If the Sox go 10-2 while TBR goes 3-10, Boston would take a one-game WC lead. You have to figure TB goes no worse than 7-3 over its last 10, meaning the Sox would have to be at least 6-4 against the final gauntlet to force a one-game playoff.
As I said, stranger things have happened...
Edited by mabrowndog, 09 September 2010 - 09:20 AM.